A research team led by the National Museum of Nature and Science said Monday it has sequenced and analyzed with high accuracy the whole genome of a woman who lived about 3,500 to 3,800 years ago, in the second half of Japan’s Jomon Period, for the first time.

The results of the genome analysis, which was almost as accurate as similar analysis performed on modern people thanks to the well-preserved DNA, suggest that a common ancestor diverged into the Jomon people and Han Chinese about 18,000 to 38,000 years ago, the researchers said.

Members of the group including Hideaki Kanzawa, a researcher at the museum, and Naruya Saito, professor at the National Institute of Genetics, sampled DNA from molars discovered with pieces of a female skull bone at the Funadomari site on Rebun Island in Hokkaido. The analysis also found that the Jomons are genetically close to groups in East Asian coastal areas from the Russian Far East through the Korean Peninsula, including indigenous Taiwanese people. It also showed they gathered in relatively small population groups and lived by hunting.

Among other discoveries, the Jomon woman had brown eyes and thin hair, as well as a high alcohol tolerance, and was genetically adapted to a high-fat diet. Many sea lion bones have been dug up at the Funadomari site.

Members of the team also include researchers from Sapporo Medical University, Kanazawa University and the University of Yamanashi.

Details of the study will be published shortly in the Anthropological Society of Nippon’s English-language journal.

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